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November 27, 2023 Quick space links

Courtesy of BtB’s stringer Jay.


  • Astra obtains $2.7 million in new financing
  • The status of this company is right now entirely unknown. It is not clear how this financing impacts the proposal of the company’s founders to buy up the stock and take Astra private. Nor is it clear how this financing satisfies other loans that have already expired and had to be paid. Based on the article, it seems to me that the company will soon have to shut down due to lack of cash.




Conscious Choice cover

Now available in hardback and paperback as well as ebook!


From the press release: In this ground-breaking new history of early America, historian Robert Zimmerman not only exposes the lie behind The New York Times 1619 Project that falsely claims slavery is central to the history of the United States, he also provides profound lessons about the nature of human societies, lessons important for Americans today as well as for all future settlers on Mars and elsewhere in space.

Conscious Choice: The origins of slavery in America and why it matters today and for our future in outer space, is a riveting page-turning story that documents how slavery slowly became pervasive in the southern British colonies of North America, colonies founded by a people and culture that not only did not allow slavery but in every way were hostile to the practice.  
Conscious Choice does more however. In telling the tragic history of the Virginia colony and the rise of slavery there, Zimmerman lays out the proper path for creating healthy societies in places like the Moon and Mars.


“Zimmerman’s ground-breaking history provides every future generation the basic framework for establishing new societies on other worlds. We would be wise to heed what he says.” —Robert Zubrin, founder of founder of the Mars Society.


All editions are available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and all book vendors, with the ebook priced at $5.99 before discount. All editions can also be purchased direct from the ebook publisher, ebookit, in which case you don't support the big tech companies and the author gets a bigger cut much sooner.


Autographed printed copies are also available at discount directly from the author (hardback $29.95; paperback $14.95; Shipping cost for either: $6.00). Just send an email to zimmerman @ nasw dot org.

Mars’ giant sinkholes

The floor of one of Mars' giant sinkholes

Cool image time! The picture to the right, rotated, cropped, reduced, and sharpened to post here, was taken on June 27, 2023 by the high resolution camera on Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO). It shows a small section of the floor and northern slope of Hebes Chasma, one of the many very large enclosed pits that can be found to the north of Valles Marineris, the largest canyon in the solar system. Though Hebes seems small next to the 1,500 mile long Valles Marineris, it still is 200 miles long by 80 miles wide, and could easily fit a half dozen Grand Canyons within it.

For example, the Grand Canyon is from 4,420 to 5,400 feet deep, hiking down from the south and north rim lodges respectively, which sit about ten miles apart. On this picture, the peak on the right sits about 5,300 feet above and only about 3.8 miles from the low spot on the bottom left, which means this one small picture encapsulates the Grand Canyon. And yet, the northern rim of Hebes sits another 21,000 feet higher and twelve miles away. And the entire chasma itself extends 50 miles to the west, 150 miles to the east, and 50 miles to the south.
» Read more

Blue Origin begins third major expansion of Huntsville facility

Blue Origin has been issued a $8.4 million building permit by local Huntsville authorities as part of the third major expansion of its rocket-manufacturing facility there.

According to the report, of the 377 permits issued so far in October and November, this was the largest. All three expansions have occurred in the past three years.

The article however includes this ridiculous statement:

The aerospace company owned by Jeff Bezos, Blue Origin has emerged as one of the top commercial spaceflight companies as the country has placed a renewed effort on returning to the moon and eventually to Mars.

How could Blue Origin be “one of the top commercial spaceflight companies” when it has still not launched anything into orbit? Even the tiny rocket startup Astra, now on the verge of bankruptcy, put more mass into orbit than Blue Origin. Everyone has, since the mass Blue Origin has put into orbit so far equals a nice fat zero.

This expansion however does suggest that something positive might finally be happening at the company. With the removal of Bob Smith as CEO and Jeff Bezos now living in Florida and closer to the action it could be that the continuing string of non-accomplishment that has made Blue Origin a bit of a joke in the space industry might possibly be ending.

We shall have to wait and see, however.

Genesis cover

On Christmas Eve 1968 three Americans became the first humans to visit another world. What they did to celebrate was unexpected and profound, and will be remembered throughout all human history. Genesis: the Story of Apollo 8, Robert Zimmerman's classic history of humanity's first journey to another world, tells that story, and it is now available as both an ebook and an audiobook, both with a foreword by Valerie Anders and a new introduction by Robert Zimmerman.

The ebook is available everywhere for $5.99 (before discount) at amazon, or direct from my ebook publisher, ebookit. If you buy it from ebookit you don't support the big tech companies and the author gets a bigger cut much sooner.

The audiobook is also available at all these vendors, and is also free with a 30-day trial membership to Audible.

"Not simply about one mission, [Genesis] is also the history of America's quest for the moon... Zimmerman has done a masterful job of tying disparate events together into a solid account of one of America's greatest human triumphs."--San Antonio Express-News

Russia launches military satellite

Russia today successfully placed a classifed military satellite in orbit, its Soyuz-2 rocket lifting off from its Plesetsk spaceport in northern Russia.

The satellite is likely a reconnaissance satellite. No word on where the rocket’s core stage and strap-on boosters landed inside Russia, though launches from Plesetsk generally head north over very empty regions and the Arctic, and as the satellite appears to have an orbit with an inclination of 67 degrees that is likely in this case.

The leaders in the 2023 launch race:

86 SpaceX
53 China
15 Russia
7 Rocket Lab
7 India

American private enterprise still leads China 98 to 53 in successful launches, and the entire world combined 98 to 84. SpaceX meanwhile maintains its lead over the rest of the world (excluding American companies) 86 to 84.

Leaving Earth cover

There are now only 3 copies left of the now out-of-print hardback of Leaving Earth. The price for an autographed copy of this rare collector's item is now $150 (plus $5 shipping).


To get your copy while the getting is good, please send a $155 check (which includes $5 shipping) payable to Robert Zimmerman to

Behind The Black, c/o Robert Zimmerman
P.O.Box 1262
Cortaro, AZ 85652


Leaving Earth is also available as an inexpensive ebook!


Leaving Earth: Space Stations, Rival Superpowers, and the Quest for Interplanetary Travel, can be purchased as an ebook everywhere for only $3.99 (before discount) at amazon, Barnes & Noble, all ebook vendors, or direct from my ebook publisher, ebookit.


If you buy it from ebookit you don't support the big oppressive tech companies and I get a bigger cut much sooner.


Winner of the 2003 Eugene M. Emme Award of the American Astronautical Society.

"Leaving Earth is one of the best and certainly the most comprehensive summary of our drive into space that I have ever read. It will be invaluable to future scholars because it will tell them how the next chapter of human history opened." -- Arthur C. Clarke

Did the Capitol police instigate violence by firing on peaceful January 6th demonstrators?

Screen capture from bodycam of officer, preparing grenade to throw into crowd
Screen capture from bodycam of officer,
preparing grenade to throw into crowd.

Video evidence recently released by House speaker Mike Johnson, combined with many videos taken by participants during the January 6, 2021 demonstrations on Capitol Hill, now suggest strongly that the violence was instigated by the DC police, not the January 6th demonstrators, who until then had been peaceful.

The video at the second link above ties together police bodycam footage with surveillance footage and smart phone footage — all time-stamped — and shows the Capitol security police firing on the demonstrators, who until that moment were doing nothing wrong and were simply standing in front of the Capitol in a crowd, chanting “USA! USA!”

Furthermore, the firing began at about 1:07 pm, eight minutes before Trump had finished giving his speech blocks away. The audience to his speech didn’t begin arriving at the Capitol until more than an hour later, when they found doors to the building open and security police welcoming them in.

Thus, the violence, set off by the police, had nothing to do with anything Trump said.
» Read more

Striped terrain on Mars

Overview map

Striped terrain on Mars
Click for original image.

Today’s cool image will be a mystery with the answer below the fold. Before you look at the answer, however, you must try to come up with your own explanation for the picture to the right, cropped to post here, that was taken on September 25, 2018 by the high resolution camera on Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO).

What we see in this picture is what looks like a striped terrain, alternating bands of light and dark. What caused the bands? Why the different colors?

The overview map above provides some clues. The white rectangle inside Juventae Chasma near the map’s center marks the area within which this picture was taken, though the picture to the right covers only about a pixel inside that rectangle.

Can you guess what these stripes reveal, from this little information? For this quiz to work you must make a guess, but be prepared to be wrong and quickly reassess your conclusions. Such is the real scientific method, so rarely taught now in schools.
» Read more

Ariane-6’s core stage completes full 7 minute engine test

Engineers yesterday successfully completed a two-hour dress rehearsal countdown and fueling of an Ariane-6 first stage followed by a full seven minute engine burn, simulating what that stage would do during a launch.

The test took place on Ariane-6’s launchpad in French Guiana.

The November 23 test sequence was run the same way as the previous ones, with a launch sequence and final countdown representative of a launch, including removal of the mobile gantry and filling the launcher’s upper and core stage tanks with liquid hydrogen (-253° Celsius) and liquid oxygen (-183° Celsius). The test ended with the ignition of the core stage Vulcain 2.1 engine, followed by more than 7 minutes of stabilized operation covering the entire core stage flight phase. All functional aspects of Ariane 6’s core stage during the flight phase were tested.

According to the European Space Agency, only one more engine test of the Ariane-6’s upper stage remains before the spring launch can be attempted, and that engine test is planned for next month in Germany.

With the retirement of the Ariane-5 rocket in July, Europe has had no large rocket to launch payloads. Originally Ariane-6’s first launches were supposed to be in parallel with Ariane-5’s last launches, but its development is four years behind schedule.

China delays till ’25 the launch of its Hubble-class optical space telescope

China today revealed that it is delaying the the launch of its Xuntian space telescope from early next year to 2025.

Zhan Hu, project scientist of Xuntian space telescope system, revealed that the delay was necessary for the team to finalize a preflight “engineering qualification model.” This model will undergo rigorous performance tests early next year. Despite the setback, China is making significant strides by domestically developing all five instruments for Xuntian, a first for the country, Scientific American reported.

The optical telescope, designed to somewhat comparable to Hubble, is intended to fly close to China’s Tiangong-3 space station where astronauts will periodically fly over to do maintenance and repair. Its primary mirror, two meters in diameter, is only slightly smaller than Hubble’s 2.4 meter mirror.

The article says the launch was supposed to happen before the end of this year, but that is incorrect. The launch has been targeting the spring of 2024 since February.

China launches classified satellite

China today used its Long March 2D rocket to launch what it described as “a technology experiment satellite for satellite internet technologies”, the rocket lifting off from its Xichang spaceport in the southwest of China.

No other information was released. While the satellite could be a test satellite for a constellation comparable to Starlink, the lack of information suggests otherwise.

No word also on whether the rocket’s first stage, using toxic hypergolic fuels, landed near habitable areas. The drop zone was over heavily populated areas in China.

Furthermore, China’s Kuaizhou-1 rocket had also been expected to launch today from Xichang in the wee hours of the morning, also carrying a classified payload. No word yet on whether that launch occurred, was scrubbed, or was simply the Long March 2D launch, the name of the rocket misunderstood prior to launch because of China’s secrecy.

Putting that unknown launch aside, here are the present leaders in the 2023 launch race:

86 SpaceX
53 China
14 Russia
7 Rocket Lab
7 India

American private enterprise still leads China 98 to 53 in successful launches, and the entire world combined 98 to 83. SpaceX by itself still leads the rest of the world (excluding American companies) 86 to 83.

Abraham Lincoln proclaims a day of Thanksgiving in the middle of the Civil War

Abraham Lincoln
Abraham Lincoln

The date was October 3, 1863. The Civil War was at its height, with no end in sight and no clear sign yet of victory for the Union. For all anyone knew, the great American experiment in self-government, freedom, and constitutional law was about to end in failure, with one half of the nation continuing on founded on the idea that it was okay to enslave other human beings, based on their race.

In such a moment, President Abraham Lincoln did what all past leaders in America had done, call for a day of prayer to God for the future while giving thanks for the blessings still abounding. For this purpose he set aside the last Thursday of November of that year.

Since then, Americans have never stopped celebrating Thanksgiving on that day. Today comes another Thanksgiving during a time of chaos, hate, violence, and oppression. There is much to invoke horror and outrage.

There is much more to be thankful for. As much as some have tried to squelch freedom here in America and abroad, all signs say that freedom-lovers everywhere are refusing to go down without a fight. Let us join together to renew that effort, so that “government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”

Below is Lincoln’s Thanksgiving proclamation. If only we had leaders today who could think and write with similar elegance and humility.
A Proclamation.

The year that is drawing towards its close, has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature, that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever watchful providence of Almighty God.
» Read more

November 22, 2023 Quick space links

Courtesy of BtB’s stringer Jay, who with I wish everyone a great Thanksgiving tomorrow.





  • Blue Origin shows off the now welded first stage tanks of its New Glenn rocket
  • It is assumed these are for the first launch, whenever that might be. Since there are no workers on the factory floor, Jay speculates it was taken after hours. I wonder, since this lack of activity has been seen in every such picture of this rocket assembly operation. I really wonder how many people even work there.


  • Jeff Bezos sells off $240 million more Amazon shares
  • Though the reporters on the CNBC video at the link speculate this money is for Blue Origin, there is no evidence of this. In fact, recently Bezos has appeared to donate almost all his stock sale cash to leftist political charities, not Blue Origin.

Martian ice sheets sublimating like peeling paint?

Overview map

Martian ice sheets resembling paint peeling
Click for original image.

Cool image time! The picture to the right, rotated, cropped, reduced, and sharpened to post here, was taken on September 19, 2023 by the high resolution camera on Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO).

The features are described as “ribbed terrain” in the label. To my eye they more resemble flakes of peeling paint, most especially the mesas in the lower left. On the full image there are many more examples that resemble old paint peels, barely attached to the wall.

The white dot on the overview map above marks the location, deep inside the 2,000-mile-long strip in the northern mid-latitudes I dub glacier country, because everything seems covered by glacial features. This location is at 42 degrees north latitude, where plenty of near-surface ice features are found on Mars.

At first glance it looks like the top “paint-peel” layers to the south have been slowly sublimating away, leaving behind the smooth plain to the north. The problem is that this smooth area in the full image actually appears to be a glacial ice sheet of its own, filling all the low areas between mesas.

In other words, we are probably looking at layers and layers of ice sheets, each created during a different Martian climate cycle, caused by the wide swings of the planet’s rotational tilt, or obliquity.

The location is within Arabia Terra, the largest transitional zone on Mars between the northern lowland plains and the southern cratered highlands. Thus it sits above the glaciers that fill the lower regions of chaos to the north. What we have here is terrain that will eventually become chaos terrain, as the narrow faults and cracks are slowly widened into canyons by the cycles of glacial activity.

Real pushback: Soldiers punished by Biden for refusing jab now sue for billions

Fighting the left's playbook
Fighting the left’s playbook

Bring a gun to a knife fight: The many military soldiers punished by Biden for refusing the Covid jab have now filed a class action lawsuit for what they expect to be worth billions.

Former troops are suing the U.S. government for lost pay and benefits due to the Biden administration’s military vaccine mandate, one of the lawyers who successfully brought down the Anthrax vaccine told Breitbart News.

Attorney Dale Saran, a retired Marine, and fellow attorneys Andy Meyer and Brandon Johnson are representing the former troops in three separate lawsuits they plan to turn into a class action lawsuit on behalf of all service members who were either kicked out or illegally ordered to stop drilling, resulting in loss of pay or benefits. Saran said the amount is in the “billions.”

“It’s worth billions. That’s just flat-out. That’s what it is in backpay. It’s billions of dollars,” he said.

Though only about 8,000 active-duty troops were kicked out of the military due to the Biden jab mandate, the lawyers estimate another 80,000 to 100,000 soldiers are due compensation for lost benefits because they were made inactive or forbidden from participating in drill activities.

The lawsuit has been filed in U.S. Court of Federal Claims, a specialized court where illegal military discharges are heard. Lawyer Saran won a similar suit in that court over the military’s anthrax mandates back in the late nineties. The case now is likely stronger because, as he notes,

They were basically [without] the benefit of any due process. No boards were held. They didn’t hold any administrative separation boards; they didn’t hold any hearings. They didn’t do any federal recognition boards; none of the administrative or judicial procedures were used. They just flat-out did it.

This willful refusal to follow the law has been typical behavior by the left since the start of the Wuhan panic. The law no longer applies to them. They want to do something, they do it, even if it is illegal and hurts someone else. Shutter businesses illegally, silence opponents illegally, favor some races illegally, fire soldiers illegaly, mandate jabs and masks illegally, demand health records illegally: All okay because the good people are doing it! How dare you question their righteousness?

The worst aspect of these violations of law has been the meek willingness of everyone to go along with them. Most shameful.
» Read more

Eutelsat-OneWeb gets license approval in India

Less than two weeks after SpaceX obtained regulatory approval to offer its Starlink system in India, Eutelsat-OneWeb (newly merged) has now gotten its own approval.

Eutelsat-OneWeb is half owned by an Indian investment firm, so it is no surprise it obtained this approval soon after SpaceX. The two companies will now be competing aggressively for business in this giant country, whose technological capabilities has been renewed in recent years by the abandonment of a socialist/communist government for a leadership focused on encouraging freedom, capitalism, and competition.

NASA laser communication experiment succeeds in sending data from beyond Moon

A NASA laser communication experiment on the asteroid probe Psyche succeeded on November 14, 2023 in sending data to and from the spacecraft as it traveled away from Earth.

NASA’s Deep Space Optical Communications (DSOC) experiment has beamed a near-infrared laser encoded with test data fromnearly 10 million miles (16 million kilometers) away – about 40 times farther than the Moon is from Earth – to the Hale Telescope at Caltech’s Palomar Observatory in San Diego County, California. This is the farthest-ever demonstration of optical communications.

Riding aboard the recently launched Psyche spacecraft, DSOC is configured to send high-bandwidth test data to Earth during its two-year technology demonstration as Psyche travels to the main asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter. NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California manages both DSOC and Psyche.

The experiment seeks to demonstrate the advantages of optical communications, which if successful could have data speeds ten to a hundred times faster than standard high band radio communications. While the technology has been demonstrated as far away as the Moon, this is the first successful test from deep space, a key advance that suggests the technology is becoming mature enough to use on planetary missions.

If so, it could largely replace or at least supplement the various radio-antenna networks on Earth, such as NASA’s Deep Space Network, with smaller and more efficient communication links.

North Korea launches spy satellite

In its third attempt this year to launch a spy satellite, North Korea today succeeded at last, its new Chollima-1 rocket lifting off from Sohae spaceport on the country’s western coast and placing in orbit what is probably a relatively primitive spy satellite with a limited lifespan.

Though launched on the coast, the flight path crossed over North Korea, with drop zones for the rocket’s lower stages in the Yellow and East China seas. The previous two launch failures (in May and August) did the same, with South Korea salvaging stages and the satellite from the first failure. The data recovered suggested the spy satellite was of “no military utility” according to the South Korean military.

As usual, U.S. and South Korean officials condemned the launch, calling it a violation of UN sanctions. Note too that this was not North Korea’s first successful launch, having managed launches in 2012 and 2016 previously, with a different rocket.

Because this was North Korea’s first success in 2023, the leader broad in the 2023 launch race remains unchanged:

86 SpaceX
52 China
14 Russia
7 Rocket Lab
7 India

However, the launch was the 180th in 2023, setting a new global record for the launches in a single year, eclipsing the record set last year. Since Sputnik in 1957 the average number of successful launches globally was generally less than a hundred. This year it is very possible the world will double that average, almost entirely because of American private enterprise, which leads China 98 to 52 in successful launches, and the entire world combined 98 to 82. SpaceX by itself still leads the rest of the world (excluding American companies) 86 to 82.

SpaceX launches 23 more Starlink satellites

SpaceX early last night continued its campaign to reach 100 launches in 2023, its Falcon 9 rocket launching for the third time in just over four days, lifting off from Cape Canaveral carrying 23 more Starlink satellites into orbit.

The first stage completed its fifteenth launch, landing on a drone ship in the Atlantic.

The leaders in the 2023 launch race:

86 SpaceX
52 China
14 Russia
7 Rocket Lab
7 India

American private enterprise now leads China 98 to 52 in successful launches, and the entire world combined 98 to 81. SpaceX by itself is now leads the rest of the world (excluding American companies) 86 to 81.

With this launch, the number of successful orbital launches in 2023 now matches the record total of 179 set last year. With a little more than five weeks to go, expect that number to top 200 before the year is out, especially because China has historically tended to launch a lot of rockets in December.

November 21, 2023 Quick space links

Courtesy of BtB’s stringer Jay.


Ancient volcanic vent on Mars

Volcanic vent on Mars
Click for original image.

Cool image time! The picture to the right, rotated, cropped, reduced, and sharpened to post here, was taken on May 28, 2023 by the high resolution camera on Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO).

The picture label describes it as a “Low Shield Vent and Pit Northeast of Arsia Mons,” suggesting these depressions are volcanic in nature. We know the pit in the lower left is not an impact crater because it has no raised rim of ejecta. Instead, it looks like a collapsed sinkhole, formed when the ceiling above a void could no longer support its weight. Similar, the trench to the northeast is aligned with the downhill grade to the northeast, with its features suggesting a vent draining in that direction.

The ample dust inside the trench and pit suggest that it has been a very long time since this vent was active. Research suggests volcanic activity last occurred in this region from 10 to 300 million years ago, so that gives us a rough estimate of this vent’s age. Since then any dust that is blown into it will tend to become trapped there.
» Read more

Will libertarian Javier Milei actually be able to institute his revolution in Argentina?

The victory of libertarian and outsider Javier Milei in Argentina this past weekend has been met with joyous approval on the right and outright horror on the left. Both expect Milei to immediately begin imposing his radical anti-government polices that will eliminate whole agencies of Argentina’s federal government.

This video by Paul Joseph Watson I think provides an excellent summary of Milei’s agenda. Though Watson sees the agenda from a wholly conservative perspective, he also covers the wide range of Milei’s goals and ideas quite nicely.

After Milei’s election many other news sources did the same, describing his goals in detail. Practically none however took a close look at the reality of Argentina’s new government, and how that reality might impringe on Milei’s plans.

You see, Argentina still has a constitutional government with a federal legislature made up of a Chamber of Deputies (its House of Representatives) and a Senate. Any analysis of Milei’s future plans has got to consider the political make-up of these bodies.

And yet, though I searched hard, I could find almost news reports that discussed that make-up in any way. Politico, NPR, and CNN didn’t mention it all. The only mainstream source I could find that even mentioned the make-up of that legislature was Reuters, but it did so in a short paragraph near the end of its report, with few details.

So, though this is not my area of expertise, I decided to try to find out, both for myself and my readers.
» Read more

North Korea announces it will attempt orbital launch of spy satellite this week

North Korea has announced that it will make a third attempt to place a spy satellite into orbit this week, lifting off anytime between November 22nd and December 1st, with drop zones of the rocket’s lower stages over the Yellow and East China seas.

The North initially planed to make the third launch attempt in October following two botched launches — in August and May. But it did not press ahead with the plan last month, raising speculation that it might need more preparation time.

As expected, South Korea has protested. It is also likely gearing up to attempt to recover as much debris from the launch as possible, as it did successfully on the previous launches.

High altitude balloon company World View will not go public

The high altitude balloon company World View has ended its negotiations, begun early this year, with a venture capital investment firm to merge and make its stock public.

In a Nov. 17 statement, World View and Leo Holdings Corp II announced they were canceling plans announced in January to merge. The decision to end the merger was mutual, the companies said.

The companies did not give a specific reason for calling off the deal. “Over the course of 2023, World View received strong interest from potential investors,” the companies stated. “However, given challenging market conditions, World View and Leo jointly determined that it was the best course of action at this time to not proceed with their previously announced transaction.”

There could be a lot of good and bad reasons this deal fell through. Mostly likely World View officials saw the generally negative consequences experienced by other space startups that went public in this manner in the past few years, and decided it better to hold off.

Rocket engine startup Ursa Major enters solid-rocket motor business

Recognizing a desperate need of the military to ramp up production of solid rocket motors after much of its missile stockpile has been depleted by President Biden’s large gifts to the Ukraine, the rocket engine startup Ursa Major has now announced it is entering solid-rocket motor business.

Describing the solid rocket motor [SRM] market as “plagued by a broken supply chain and an overextended industrial base,” the Colorado startup today announced its plans to use its 3D printing techniques developed for liquid rocket engines to speed production of solid-fuel propulsion systems. Ursa Major has received several contracts from the Air Force Research Laboratory for its work on a new rocket engine for heavy space launch vehicles, as well as a hypersonic engine.

“Traditional SRM providers rely on production lines that are difficult to re-tool, expensive to ramp up, and dependent on a significant workforce to operate,” the company said in a press release touting its “new approach” to manufacturing, dubbed Lynx. “Ursa Major is offering a new way to scale production of SRMs,” Ursa Major CEO Joe Laurienti said in the press release. “Lynx meets the defense industry’s need for a faster, cheaper, scalable, and flexible SRM production process that results in better-performing solid rocket motors.”

The article also notes that at present the military is dependent on only two companies for new solid rockets, Northrop Grumman and Aerojet Rocketdyne (now L3Harris). The article also notes that it could take anywhere from five to eighteen years for these companies to replenish the depleted stocks.

The bottleneck however has brought several new players into the field, with the military eager to issue contracts to these new players. This decision by Ursa Major is thus a very good one.

India now plans robotic lunar sample return mission

Following the successful landing of Vikram on the Moon, officials of India’s space agency ISRO have announced it is considering a much more ambitious follow-up, Chandrayaan-4, that will not only land on the lunar surface with a much larger rover, it will also dig up some samples and return them to Earth.

The spacecraft will travel to the moon, land, collect samples, and then connect to another module in space. The module will then return to Earth orbit. As the two modules approach Earth, they will separate, with one part returning to Earth and the other will keep orbiting the planet. Desai described the mission as ambitious, stating, “Hopefully, in the next five to seven years, we will meet the challenge of bringing samples from the moon.”

For return to Earth, Desai said that the mission would need two launch vehicles containing four modules (Transfer module, Lander Module, Ascender Module and Re-entry module). RM and TM would be Parked in the lunar orbit and two will go down from which Ascender Module will get separated from lander module and would collect the sample.

If India does this mission, while also completing its first manned mission during that time frame, it will place itself in direct competition with China and the U.S., and in fact will be getting close to matching both in capabilities.

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